3D vision - the new age of pharma?

pharma

3D printing has been much heralded as an answer to many of the production challenges across healthcare. But until recently, its potential to revolutionise pharmaceutical development and even personalise frontline medicine delivery has been a futuristic vision. Is the launch of a new epilepsy drug also a new dawn for individualised pharmacy services?

When Aprecia Pharmaceuticals launched Spritam in March 2016, the personalised medicine horizon shifted tantalisingly closer. The dissoluble epilepsy pill is the first prescription drug to be developed using 3D printing technology. And having successfully navigated the research, clinical trial and, crucially, US FDA approval stages, Aprecia has effectively fired the starting gun for the pharma industry’s long-anticipated race to exploit the myriad benefits of 3D printing.

These benefits, including reduced manufacturing costs and potentially individualised product development, are increasingly established in other areas of healthcare such as prosthetics and implants. But the complexity of pharmaceutical development and manufacturing processes, not to mention the challenge of meeting regulation requirements, presents a unique set of hurdles for the large-scale adoption of 3D technologies in development and production.

Even so, anticipation has been growing since these technologies started to emerge as a serious commercial proposition in the early 2000s. While broader media coverage has tended to oversimplify the potential for 3D to cause a rapid revolution in pharma production, the arrival of Spritam paves the way for a new phase of exploration which could ultimately change not only the composition and release profiles of individual and compound drugs, but the way in which personalised medicine is delivered by doctors and pharmacists.

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